Too many movies — my memories of Edinburgh International Film Festival have becomes a swirling series of overlays, like the visionary multi-exposure fugues of Paul Clipson, whose MADE OF AIR screened in the Black Box strand. Saturday was the day the movies came out to get me.

On Saturday I saw an old drama, a new documentary, an experimental/performance piece and an In Person event with Jane Seymour. (On Frankenstein: The True Story — “That was the first time I had to look at a line-up of naked women and pick one as my stand-in, saying, ‘That one looks the most like me naked.'”). I had a ticket for a fifth film but I gave it back — my brain was full.

In Person With Jane Seymour featured the actress and powerhouse recounting her near-death experience, and explaining why John Gielgud never stopped working: “I’ve never missed a day on set so if I see my name in a call sheet I know I’ll be alive tomorrow.”

At the climax of IMAGINE WAKING UP TOMORROW AND ALL MUSIC HAS DISAPPEARED, musician and artist Bill Drummond gathers the cinema audience itself into one of his situational sound experiments, making us participants in the film and hence legally entitled to add our names to the credits at the doc’s website.

During TYBURNIA, the Dead Rat Orchestra left the stage during the film and tiptoed up the steeply-raked bleachers of Traverse 1 to freak us out with strange music from behind.


The inadequate air-conditioning turned THE BRAVE DON’T CRY, a 1952 Grierson-produced drama about a mining cave-in, into a fully interactive experience, as we gasped in asthmatic sympathy with the entombed workers onscreen.

This was all getting too real, so THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT, from the producer of INSIDIOUS, began to seem like a BAD RISK.

Will continue to report on some of my more memorable cinematic encounters over the next week, but will also resume abnormal service with a random smattering of other observations and experiences. Meanwhile, here’s my top ten American films, chosen with a few spare neurons for Scout Tafoya. They are basically movies I can rewatch endlessly — my students will recognize several.


9 Responses to “O.D.”

  1. As I trust you know Frankenstein The True: Story, a two-part mini series was written by Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy and directed by the unjustly neglected Jack Smight (Harper, No Way to Treat a Lady, The Travelling Executioner) Don tells me that he and Chris also wrote a Mummy screenplay with a female Mummy entitled The Lady From the Land of the Dead. Universal still owns it.

  2. Damn, how many interesting Mummy projects does Universal own? I would love to read that, and the one John Sayles wrote for Joe Dante.

    F:TTS made a big impression on Fiona & I as kids. Seymour’s other chief memory was James Mason reading The Times aloud every morning while she tried to learn her lines, and her accidentally sitting in Ralph Richardson’s chair. His unique reaction was to go into silent orbit around her until she noticed…

  3. Fiona W Says:

    F:TTS freaked me out in the best possible way. Seymour attempts to strangle a cat (always a bad sign in my opinion) then gets her head pulled off at a ball, somewhat putting a dampener on the evening. LOVED the story about RR circling the chair till she gave it up. Makes him sound like a grumpy canine. (BBC version of Whistle And I’ll Come To You. Michael Hordern – “Mphhhhrr…some kind of dog.”)

  4. Every Richardson anecdote reveals some new facet of his divine eccentricity. Punching Alec Guinness for no reason is still the best one, though. “Well, if one can’t punch one’s friends, who can one punch?”

    The idea in F:TTS that the creature starts off beautiful, then deteriorates, is a marvellous one. A more faithful (uncensored) version of the Isherwood/Bacardy draft would be welcome.

  5. So there’s Norman (and by god Perkins is cute as a pair of bug’s ears) and his Oedipal square dance in Psycho, there’s the gals of Mulholland Drive and then, thank god, there’s *Doctor* Kenny’s Scorpio Rising and there’s Hoffman’s immensely and immediately recognizable gay sad sack from Boogie Nights, pining for Mark Wahlberg. And I’ll be generous and give you SIngin’ in the Rain because I love it so, (“I am a shimmering, glowing star in the cinema firm-ah-ment. It says so. Right… there.”) And I’ll say yes to All About Eve and its Sapphic manipulator obsessed, like a generation of gay men, with Bette. The Producers of course lays claim to uber-camp sensibility, although it’s Christopher Hewett and Andreas Voutsinas who really ensure its place in my heart. Puce Moment of course (“ecstasy’s my game”), plus a big “yes!” to Warhol’s hilarious My Hustler, which I saw at a Cambridge Filmsoc screening in 1969 and have never forgotten, then I’ll agree to include Female Trouble which is pretty essential anyway… add Ken the Magus again with Lucifer Rising and Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, American Beauty for its storyline about repressed (homo)sexuality… Angels in America most certainly, and Naked Lunch (I’m being generous again) and, I suppose, Design for Living in honor of the source material.

    I trawled the Top Ten American movies list(s) and those are the only movies that reflect my understanding of what it means to be gay or lesbian or transgendered; the conflicts, the pain, the camp joys, the simple joys, the alienation.

    Odd that nobody chose Reflections in A Golden Eye, which gets better ‘n better every time I watch it.

    Brokeback Mtn *was*, and remains, groundbreaking, but nobody’s listing it. Johnny Guitar sort-of counts, and while we’re on the subject, Mildred P. always gets a look in, but that’s not what I mean when I say that all those movies, however wonderful (and of course most of them are), are grounded in a heteronormative vision of life in America.

    The Supreme Court made a stunning, jaw-dropping decision last Friday, in support of LGBT rights and indeed of *human* rights.

    And moreover it’s Pride Month.

    I thought I’d see some allusion to these rather significant (to LGBT people) socio-political tides which finally are running in our favor? Some effort by essayists and critics to scrutinize their “Top Ten” movies with an eye to inclusivity or lack thereof?
    For accurate gay and lesbian representation?

    Imitation of Life is a wonder, but Haynes’s Sirkian homage, Far from Heaven, is rather more interesting. And Dennis Quaid always prompts a swoon, hopefully an elegant one.

  6. You’re right, I made no effort to be inclusive, I just picked ten favourite movies which I’ve watched repeatedly and recently enough to be sure of.

    But an alternative ten that are just as good (except I would always want He Who Gets Slapped) and which may have a little more resonance for you —

    Sullivan’s Travels (Pangborn)
    The Maltese Falcon (Greenstreet, Lorre and Cook)
    North by Northwest (Landau)
    Hands Across the Table (Leisen)
    Petulia (Chamberlain)
    Red River (Clift)
    Trouble in Mind (Divine)
    Seconds (Hudson)
    Shanghai Express (everything)
    Once Upon a Time in America (everyone)

    Very little editorial bias there — most of those titles would sit comfortably on my regular top ten list. But I don’t think top tens are under any obligation to be anything other than personal.

  7. But there are other titles on that list which could be said to reflect gay themes, camp joys etc.
    The Wizard of Oz; Phantom of the Paradise; Johnny Guitar; Blazing Saddles; Bringing Up Baby & Gentlemen Prefer Blondes; The Ladies Man; Blue Velvet; Some Like it Hot, Hold Me While I’m Naked, Laura; Sunset Blvd; Fantasia; The Tarnished Angels & All That heaven Allows; Barry Lyndon & Eyes Wide Shut; Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia & The Wild Bunch, Female Trouble, My Hustler, Portrait of Jason, The Color Purple just barely, The Lady from Shangai & Touch of Evil, Elephant, Cabaret, Rope & north by Northwest and I’m tempted to suggest Alien.

    Pulp Fiction and Team America and Silence of the Lambs admit the existence of homosexual activity, but can’t really be praised for sensitivity.

    Films by directors believed to be gay or bi:
    Meet Me in St Louis & An American in Paris; Night of the Hunter; Fury & You Only Live Once; Sunrise & City Girl; Safe & Superstar; His Girl Friday & Money Business & Only Angels Have Wings & Rio Bravo & Hatari! & Ball of Fire; The Searchers & The Long Voyage Home & My Darling Clementine & She Wore a Yellow Ribbon & Wagon Master & The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance & Fort Apache & How Green Was My Valley; The Docks of New York & The Scarlet Empress; The Big Parade; They Live By Night & Bigger Than Life & Rebel Wthout a Cause & Wind Across the Everglades & The Lusty Men & Bitter Victory & In a Lonely Place.

  8. Lovely.
    Last night I was incoherent with exhaustion (incoherent? No surprises there, then) and rambled even more than usual, and certainly didn’t mean to imply *you* are remiss in any way.

    I was making a broader observation regarding the representation of LGBT people in cinema, a topic which smarter bods than I have tackled exhaustively (but not incoherently).

    The title which jumped out of your rather thrilling lists above was, of all things, Wind Across the Everglades. A movie that obsessed me as a little (gay) boy of 8.

    I noticed that Powell didn’t get much of a showing in the top ten lists. Whereas to my LGBT-resonant list I would add Peeping Tom, for reasons that are both subtle and quite clear.

  9. BUT — these are top tens of AMERICAN films. Always a tricky category to be sure of (2001 was shot in Britain by Brits), but one Powell can be excluded from. The very English Gone to Earth was his only US-produced flick, I think. Oh, and the terrible The Queen’s Guards.

    My Brit top ten might run —

    A Matter of Life and Death
    The Red Shoes
    The Knack
    The Devils
    Laurence of Arabia
    The Ladykillers
    The Innocents
    The Third Man
    Night of the Demon
    Don’t Look Now

    But other Roeg, Reed, Russell films are available, and there’s Kind Hearts and Coronets, Get Carter, and at a stretch, Jason and the Argonauts.

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